A planned R300-million factory that will use ingceke (clay) to make tiles is expected to create more than 1000 jobs when it opens in the current (2018-19) financial year in BCM.
It is not yet known where in East London the factory will be located, but two business partners – Chinese property developer Billy Huang and Johannesburg-based Eastern Cape-born Malusi Kobese – have registered a company and applied for a mining licence in King William’s Town.
This means generations Xhosa initiates have been sitting on a gold mine without even knowing it, because traditional initiates use ingceke, the African sunscreen lotion, whenever they undergo the rite.
A Chinese delegation attending the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) forum in East London discovered that ingceke has economic value – with ingceke from Kuni village near Good Hope outside East London still to be tested in China, and samples from Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) and Mount Coke.
“Because we visited two different sites we got different results, both stronger than your average tile material, and surprisingly the one from Grahamstown, found in a quarry there, the strongest.
“Since our quest to identify more places with the same, or even stronger material, we have been made aware of the site in Kune near Good Hope, which we are still to test back home,” Huang said.
The planned R300-million factory comes after Mercedes-Benz South Africa Limited announced a R10-billion investment, while ICT group Yekani Manufacturing recently unveiled its R1-billion factory in East London.
Huang, the Chinese People’s Associations for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) secretary, said they took some samples of the clay for further testing and they were impressed with the quality of the mineral resources around the city.
“We need 10ha [for the factory] and we have done site visits in Dimbaza, where we’ve seen potential and can access land which is close to King William’s Town.
We have also identified marble there and have applied for a licence to mine it,” he said.
Kobese said: “It’s just a matter of finding the right location and getting the necessary documentation – and we will be ready to create more than 1000 jobs in the city.”
Kobese said they had appealed to geologists from Rhodes University for direction in terms of where they could fine the desired clay.
“There seems no documentation of where certain clays can be found and we were working by word of mouth until we were redirected to Good Hope by Buffalo City Municipality.
“We heard about quarries in Ncera but most are on private property and the farmers there won’t allow us to test or even buy their farms, but we are very hopeful with what we have found in Good Hope.
“The material is white and stronger in colour than the yellow weak clay in Mount Coke,” he said.
EL IDZ spokesman Sakhiwo Tetyana yesterday confirmed they had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the pair.
“Unfortunately details of the MoU cannot be disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement. Once the investment application has been taken through the internal approval process and investment has come into fruition, we will make a formal announcement,” he said.
Delivering his address at the Brics business breakfast at the East London ICC on Saturday, economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane urged participant nations to find opportunities in the province.
“We want to pursue an export-led manufacturing agenda to our fellow Brics countries and to the rest of the world.
“As things stand, we are on the receiving end of a skewed trade relationship, thus the hosting of the Brics by our country [this] month should serve as platform to balance the scales,” he said. — firstname.lastname@example.org